The Beast visits Cowboys rookie minicamp '09

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- The crowd at today's Dallas Cowboys rookie minicamp was thinner than usual, in part because the most recognizable player was a fourth-round draft choice out of Texas A&M named Stephen McGee who missed most of the '08 season with a shoulder injury. Before approaching lockers, reporters would confer to make sure they were about to interview the correct player.

Mickens Smith
I'll admit that I spent 10 minutes visiting with two former Cincinnati defensive backs before realizing which one was Mike Mickens (seventh round) and which one was DeAngelo Smith (fifth round). The two college pals seemed to enjoy the confusion -- especially when one Fort Worth-based reporter blurted, "OK, who's who here?"

Smith is a 5-foot-11, 197-pound cornerback who will convert to safety for the Cowboys. Mickens was projected as a third-round pick following his junior season, but he elected to return for his senior season and injured his left knee. According to Mickens, he didn't give the knee enough time to heal before playing at "50 percent" in the Orange Bowl. He knows the decision may have cost him a few rounds in the draft, but he doesn't have any regrets.

"I didn't even think about sitting out the bowl game," Mickens said after his first practice with the Cowboys on Friday. "When there's a chance to compete, I'm going to be out there. No one tried to talk me out of it because they knew what I'd say."

Last Sunday, Mickens said he "gave up hope" when he wasn't taken in the fifth round. And that's why he was thrilled to receive a phone call from Jerry Jones in the seventh round. Mickens couldn't participate in the Senior Bowl and the combine because of his knee injury. And he wasn't himself at Cincinnati's pro day in March, running a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. He said he'd run a 4.41 his sophomore season at Cincinnati. And to the naked eye Friday, he didn't appear to be favoring his left knee at all.

The most impressive thing about Mickens, Smith and fifth-round safety Michael Hamlin out of Clemson is that they caught pretty much everything thrown their way Friday. The Cowboys only had eight interceptions last season, and they wanted players with what scouts refer to as "good ball production."

Mickens, Smith and Hamlin combined to have 38 interceptions in college. And safeties coach Brett Maxie said he saw Hamlin catch some low throws Friday that grabbed his attention. OK, I'll be back in a moment with tidbits on the players I focused on during the minicamp.